Congrats to R.A. Dickey of the New York Mets, who became the first pitcher whose primary pitch is the knuckleball to win the Cy Young Award. The National League vote wasn’t close, as Dickey piled up 209 points and 27 of 32 first-place votes from members of the Baseball Writers Association of America. That’s in stark contrast to the American League, where Tampa Bay’s David Price won with 153 points and 14 first-place votes, edging out Detroit’s Justin Verlander, who had 149 points and 13 first-place votes.
I had a ballot for NL Cy Young, and it looked like this: Dickey, Johnny Cueto of the Reds, Clayton Kershaw of the Dodgers, Gio Gonzalez of the Nationals and Matt Cain of the Giants. The one thing I liked about this year’s voting, no matter the result, is that the BBWAA is publishing the vote breakdown by writer for each of the awards it presents: Rookie of the Year, Manager of the Year, Cy Young and Most Valuable Player. It’s a good show of transparency by the BBWAA, and you can check it all out at bbwaa.com.
So what goes into a vote? I can speak only for myself. For the Cy Young, I go with a combination of traditional measures plus a healthy dose of more advanced metrics, or “sabermetric” stats.
The stats revolution, starting popularly with Bill James in the 1980s and continuing today with Internet sites such as Baseball Prospectus, Fangraphs, the Hardball Times, Baseball Think Factory and others, has brought more science into the voting, or at least made writers aware that the science is out there.
For my vote, I only start by looking at the won-loss record and ERA, the traditional measures. In the “old days,” if you were a 20-game winner, you got immediate consideration as a frontrunner, and if you were a league’s only 20-game winner, you might be a virtual shoo-in. No more. Nowadays, a pitcher who goes 12-10 might be considered for the Cy Young as much as a guy who went 20-15, and that’s a good thing. We can thank some of the “advanced” stats for that.
Dickey had a record of 20-6 and an ERA of 2.73. After first looking at those two stats, I make a chart of all the contenders and factor in such stats as WHIP, ERA-plus (it figured heavily into my ballot this year), opponents batting average, strikeouts, strikeouts-to-walks, FIP (fielding-independent pitching) and WAR (wins above replacement).
Cueto was second on my ballot in large part because of his ERA-plus of 152, which led the National League. ERA-plus weighs ballpark factors and the league. If 100 is the norm for ERA-plus, any number above that is good (even though the raw ERA number is better if lower). Cueto’s ERA-plus was impressive because he plays in a home park that favors hitters. One of my colleagues tweeted that Cueto was robbed by not being one of the three finalists announced by the BBWAA before the announcement on the MLB Network Wednesday night.
I also tend to favor starting pitchers over relievers and closers unless a closer goes something like 52-for-53 in save chances.
The Baseball Writers awards wrap up tonight with the announcement of the Most Valuable Player for each league. That’s a tough one in the American League, where the vote figures to be close (and much discussed) between the Angels’ Mike Trout and the Tigers’ Miguel Cabrera, the Triple Crown winner.
The BBWAA, on its website, has a FAQ on its awards voting. Here is what the BBWAA says about MVP voting:
“Dear Voter: There is no clear-cut definition of what Most Valuable means. It is up to the individual voter to decide who was the Most Valuable Player in each league to his team. The MVP need not come from a division winner or other playoff qualifier.
“The rules of the voting remain the same as they were written on the first ballot in 1931:
1. Actual value of a player to his team, that is, strength of offense and defense.
2. Number of games played.
3. General character, disposition, loyalty and effort.
4. Former winners are eligible.
5. Members of the committee may vote for more than one member of a team.
You are also urged to give serious consideration to all your selections, from 1 to 10. A 10th-place vote can influence the outcome of an election. You must fill in all 10 places on your ballot. Only regular-season performances are to be taken into consideration.
“Keep in mind that all players are eligible for MVP, including pitchers and designated hitters.”
So there you have it. The debate certainly won’t end after the MVPs are named tonight.